Susannah Darrow knows the cyclical relationship between the arts and the economy: Nobody buys art during a recession.
Between 2008–11, dozens of Atlanta galleries shuttered, and reporting on the arts dwindled. Casualties included The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s art section, whose full-time writers were laid off or reassigned.
To fill the void, Darrow and a handful of friends and colleagues started Burnaway, an online arts publication focusing mainly on visual arts and emerging artists.
“We were all art history students or recent grads,” Darrow said. “We all had our own independent blogs, and we just decided to aggregate our efforts.”
The Atlanta arts community immediately buzzed around Burnaway and its grassroots methods for supporting artists and art spaces.
“As an art history grad student, I was already writing about art a lot, so it was complementary to be able to work academically and professionally at the same time,” Darrow said.
The Georgia Center for Nonprofits named Darrow one of Atlanta’s top nonprofit leaders under the age of 30 in 2013, and Georgia Trend honored her among the magazine’s annual “40 Under 40” rankings in 2014.
She’s now the executive director of ArtsATL, one of the many startup arts organizations that cropped up in Atlanta around the same time as Burnaway. According to Darrow, many of those recession-era outfits have since matured into more sustainable organizations.
“What’s interesting about Atlanta’s arts community is that there’s an opportunity for anyone to have a seat at the table,” she said. “Unlike other cities where arts scenes are overly saturated, Atlanta still has a lot of room for growth in the arts. There is still an openness to projects and initiatives. We get to see a lot of exciting failures and occasionally productive successes.”
Illustration by Adam Cruft